Psychoanalytic Essay On Hamlet
For Freud, Hamlet’s shame has to do with his Oedipal desires. It has to do with the shame of needing to love, the shame about the emptiness that, they hold, is at the center of the experience of love.The idea of love as something tied to emptiness or nothingness is central to psychoanalysis.Rather, it’s that the possibility of being violent fills him with shame.In “Hamlet,” they write, shame is pervasive; it has settled on Elsinore like a fog.Often, Webster and Critchley write, we’re inclined to think of love as the opposite of emptiness—we see it as “a system of mutual favors” that acts as a kind of bonus to life, a surplus. Inside each of us there’s an emptiness, and that emptiness can never be filled.None of us can ever be loved enough—by our parents, by our children, by our husbands or wives. I love you.” Each time you declare your love, you admit that there’s a lack in yourself.Then, later, Hamlet must confront his own thoughtful, nonviolent nature.After Hamlet tells Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery!
In the nineties, in a brilliant essay called “Hamlet’s Dull Revenge,” the writer René Girard faulted critics for writing as though “no more was needed than some ghost to ask for it, and the average professor of literature would massacre his entire household without batting an eyelash.” Our response to “Hamlet,” he thought, said more about our bloodlust (and about the roots of theatre in religious sacrifice) than it did about Shakespeare.
If the essence of love is wanting, it’s no wonder that shame and narcissism are so often part of love.
It’s intrinsically shameful to need and need and need, and the bottomlessness of this need breeds anger and resentment. We’re all just living in our own heads, chasing after impossible fulfillment.
Your love is genuine, but so are your perpetual feelings of emptiness and of powerlessness. We claim to love one another, but it’s just “words, words, words.” If this is what love is, then Hamlet doesn’t want it.
What’s most galling, perhaps, is the realization that the people whom you love are similarly empty. Perhaps all they want is the outward show of his love for them. It may be that Hamlet is seeing the truth about love.